Y Withdraws Sewer Application

This morning’s most interesting press release:

The Westport Weston Family Y announced today that it has withdrawn the pending application with the Town of Westport to connect its planned new Y facility at Mahackeno Outdoor Center to the Town’s municipal sanitary sewer system.

The Family Y had previously gained local and state approval to install and operate a septic system that would safely treat wastewater from the new Y facility on site. Citing environmental and economic benefits, in late January the Family Y filed an application with the Town to connect its planned new Y to the Town’s municipal sanitary sewer system.

“We filed the application in response to input that we had received throughout the public approval process from many members of the community, including local officials, expressing a preference for a sewer connection rather than an on-site septic system,” said Rob Reeves, Family Y CEO.

Since the application was filed, it has become apparent that the Family Y’s application has raised consideration of issues broader than anticipated.

In 1953 -- when Stevan Dohanos drew this Saturday Evening Post cover at Camp Mahackeno -- few folks worried about either sewers or septic systems.

“Under the present circumstances we do not feel it is in the interest of the Family Y – our 5,500 members and the volunteers who lead our association – to pursue the application further,” said Reeves. “Simply put, we need to focus on our greatest priorities: meeting our funding goals and keeping our construction plans and timeline on track as we continue to meet the needs of our community with our many programs and services.”

“We have every confidence in the septic system as designed and approved and will proceed with our efforts to build what really matters – a sustainable new Y for our community – in accordance with all the required approvals that are now in place,” said Reeves.

The Y is still approximately $5 million short of the $36 million needed by May 11 to reach its financial and construction deadlines. The press released noted that if sufficient funds are raised, construction will be in October on Phase I of the new Y facility. The 55,000-square foot building will include a lap pool and family/teaching pool; wellness center; multi-purpose gym; 3 group fitness studios; a child watch/kids’ adventure gym area; 5 locker rooms, and other amenities.

43 responses to “Y Withdraws Sewer Application

  1. Babette d'Yveine

    To: Save Westport Now — Congratulations! Continue to fight the good fight.

  2. Tracy Flood

    If people are truly worried about the septic sytem, then why fight the sewer? I think we know the answer……..

    • Thumbs up to that!

    • Short answer – impact of increasing and more highly concentrated development along a sewer line going out there. The reasons to not put in a sewer line transcend the issue of the Y.

  3. Disappoint that we can't do better

    You are mistaken. There is no “good” fight here. The only battle is how the needs of children and others in the towns of Westport and Weston are met. The Y has played a pivotal role for over a half a century in providing highly valued services and first rate programs that not only support the needs of the youth of the town but address important areas of affordable childcare, general health & wellness, physical fitness and civic education. The other options for potential locations for a new, modern Y that have been referred by many including Westport Now have never been real or realistic. They are just excuses to protect personal interest in the guise of something else. It would be great if the focus of the debate was one of how do we provide the means for our children and those in our community who rely on and value the services of the Y continue to receive them. We need institutions like the Y to continue to be an important part of our community for today and tomorrow. Without a Y we lose something that diminishes us all.

  4. Here’s the Kool-Aid. Drink up

    • David J. Loffredo

      What do you suggest?

    • Disappointed that we can't do better

      The only Kool-Aid being served is that by Y Downtown and the continuous illusion within the bubble of illogic. The option to stay downtown was never one available… ever.

      • John McCarthy

        So, if the town can give or sell Baron’s South to a non-profit to benefit a very small number of Westporters, why couldn’t the town do a land swap with the Y? This is not an Either/Or proposition. We could do both on Baron’s South or use the Imperial lot. The only thing that is lacking to make this happen is the will of the Y and an open minded town administration. Gordon, keeping the Y downtown is the right thing to do.

        • Disappointed that we can't do better

          This will not happen. There is no interest or political will on the part of the First Selectman to make this occur — past or present. That has been the illusion of Y Downtown. If this could have occurred it would have by now. Kinda makes sense to many of us in the town. I have lived here most of my life. I agree. But as they say “the train has left the station”. We need to face facts and understand we are “where we are”.

  5. The Y provides affordable daycare. Since when? Great programs for children? Only if they swim. The Y is all about the pool. Westport’s schools, sports leagues, Parks and Recreation’s affordable programs, and the library exceed the quality of the Y’s programs. In thirty years, no one in my family ever relied on or valued the services of the Y. But we’re not big swimmers.
    It’s only all about the pool.

  6. The Dude Abides

    Once the hub of downtown with activities for the young – hoops, pool, ping pong, badmitton, swimming and dances every Friday nite — the YMCA is no longer that. It’s membership and boondoggle of an affair for a new facility reflects that change. Just like the Remarkable Book Store, the Y has seen its day. R.I.P.

  7. Eric Buchroeder

    Y O Y can’t we figure out Y we need the Y?

  8. Outraged Taxpayer

    Correction: The Y is still short $5.7 million–even AFTER Mr. Raymond’s well-publicized pledge. And it’s not clear whether the $5.7 includes: (1) the $3 million for the Exit 41 work–which the Y has been busy trying to shift to CT taxpayers, notwithstanding its pledge that this entire thing would not be at the taxpayers’ expense (if I lived in any OTHER town, I’d be furious that the Y is trying to use state money for what amounts to a private swim club in Westport); and (2) the cost of the cash reserve for the maintenance and repair of the septic system. Bottom line: the Y’s gap in fundraising may be greater than what the Y wants to admit.

    • A Special Permit is a taxpayer expense. I believe Emma would call it a taking.

  9. Hysterical Westport can’t raise enough money for a proper Y. Cost of botox rising? Here in Cali there are several amazing Ys to choose from. We use them for classes, swimming, and working out. Couldn’t imagine not having it.

    Outraged taxpayer should move to a Santorum-controlled zone. The local YMCA is what you’re concerned about. Wow.

    Westporters need to up the fundraising effort. Companies employing Westporters need to step up as well. Outraged Taxpayers with no vision need to shut it.

  10. What happens if they don’t raise the $5 million by May?

  11. Bart Shuldman

    Dan. I got to thinking-what happens if they Y does not raise enough money to build at Mahackeno? This is already a scaled down building but what of they cannot move forward at all? Do we lose a Y in Westport?

    • Disappointed that we can't do better

      Yes, that is the sad reality. No more programs for our kids, no more day care, no more gym facilities for those who depend on them, no more civic programs and the loss of one of the top 5 employers in the town. In the process Westport we lose more than a bit of charm but a rich aspect that makes our town better.

    • David J. Loffredo

      Bart –

      It’s simple really. There are YMCA’s in Norwalk, Wilton, New Canaan, Fairfield, and the new Chelsea Piers opening in Stamford. A bunch of WRAT swimmers are already making alternative plans and the other teams will happily take them. The gymnasts and other kids will follow, and Westport won’t have a Y.

      It’s really just poor timing. Trying to raise a ton of money in this environment is next to impossible and the extra years the Y spent fighting Art Cohen and the Save Westport Now crew probably cost the town its Y.

      • A Realistic Observer

        Dave: your explanation ignores the Y Board’s responsibility for this fiasco. How about the Board’s decision to sell its building BEFORE it had approvals for a new site? (If this organization had shareholders, they would have thrown these bozos out a long time ago). Or how about alienating half the town with its decision to cram a huge building into a residential neighborhood—with 800 cars a day zooming up and down formerly quiet streets. Or how about trying to lowball its offer for the Baron’s site? You can wail all you want about the economic environment or Y Downtown, but remember that it is the Y’s Board that is to blame for this mess. Perhaps if they hadn’t been so hardheaded, high-handed, and hard-hearted, we’d still have a full-service Y. And by the way, why should people donate to a facility that won’t have day-care, gymnastics, racquetball or many of the other things that were promised?

        • David J. Loffredo

          I won’t get into a battle on a public forum where you’re anonymous and I’m not but here are some facts:

          – P&Z granted approval on October 23, 2008
          – The Y sales contract to David Waldman was amended and finalized on November 6, 2009 (a year after P&Z approval) which is when the 60 month clock started ticking (thus the November 2014 exit date)
          – There is no access from River Lane or Rices Lane, and I don’t think CT-33 and the Exit Ramp/Commuter Lot access to the Merritt Parkway count as “zooming up and down formerly quiet streets”. Everyone on Sunny Lane has been compensated.
          – I’m not familiar with the “lowball” offer for Barons South. What I do know is that after this charade of an RFP, the Jewish Home for the Elderly will be given a $20M piece of property for free and we will be on the hook to provide services to a high need population – so I guess the Y’s offer was less than zero? I may be wrong but I don’t think Baron’s South was ever an option at any price.
          – The current facility is a decade past its prime, and in fact has given rise to a cottage industry of private health clubs all over town. No one who spends any amount of time there could argue that there’s anyway to do anything other than level it and start fresh.

          I won’t argue your other points, I’m sure in any good battle strong personalities on both sides probably made this more of a mess than it needed to be.

          • A Realistic Observer

            The Y announced its sale of the property for $20 million on December 12, 2006 and they sealed the deal years BEFORE the appeals were finished. So I stand by my characterization that this was a foolhardy decision. No responsible board would act this way. (And if you think that the threat of having “no Y” didn’t influence P&Z or Conservation or the RTM, think again.) As for Sunny Lane, the fact that the Y managed to convince homeowners to move is not the same thing as not putting an extra 800 cars a day on a residential street. The air pollution and traffic is likely to impact that entire neighborhood. As for Joseloff’s plan for Baron’s South: I couldn’t agree more. It is a travesty. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Y was offered the site during Diane Farrell’s administration. (If you want the exact numbers and facts, check out Amy Ancel’s post on this website last month.) I stand by what I said: the Y Board bears the bulk of the blame for this mess.

            • Y Board gets most of the blame. Amen

              • What the Y Board has always and will continue to bear is the commitment and responsibility to serve the needs of the communities it serves. This tireless group of dedicated community volunteers have given countless hours and resources to improve the lives of those who live and work here. I stand in awe of their ability to tolerate the petty and small minded agendas of those who’s ultimate goal appears to be to weaken the community.

                • Oh, that’s rich. Of course the Y Board would like to blame everyone else for its current predicament, when it was the Board that totally over-reached in the first place and then voted to sell its building out from under its members in order to strongarm the P&Z. The Y’s leadership has now blamed the people who opposed their Mahackeno plans for all their troubles. (There were thousands of Westporters who opposed it, so that’s a lot of blame to go around!) If the Y ends up homeless and out of business, they only have themselves to hold responsible and accountable to their members and the community they so “tirelessly and dedicatedly” serve. But of course they won’t hold themselves responsible. They’re much too arrogant for that. What a load, BMS. The Y’s Board has behaved badly in this town for years and years and years. I’m sure you’d love to rewrite history, but it’s all on the record and everyone knows the truth.

                  • Amy,
                    If you define arrogant as taking time away from their own families, businesses and other obligations to serve as volunteers with nothing to gain other than a better communtiy for you and everyone else then yes, I agree these are some of the most arrogant people I have ever met.
                    Now let’s define ignorant. . .

  12. John McCarthy, you’ve mentioned the land swap a number of times and I agree with you on most points- but the use of the Imperial lot. Explain where people would park once a larger building than the existing one is constructed on that lot??

  13. Old and Grey


  14. John, Matthew Mandell, Amy, etc. ..can someone answer a simple question? WHY do we have only Gordon to go through to even entertain a potential land-swap, etc? He doesn’t speak out on much it seems. WHAT
    other routes, RTM, etc? could one use to even facilitate a new convo on this matter? Otherwise, this just goes round in circles. BTW, totally agree with A Realistic Observer above. Sadly, the Y did this to themselves. But we’d all like to see a Y (or similar community center) in Westport….thoughts?

    • Because Westport is his fiefdom?

      You’re right… Gordon doesn’t speak out on much of anything. He just manuveurs and manipulates whatever he wants behind the scenes. I think it’s clear that Gordon wants the Y at Mahackeno, because that will keep all the town-owned land downtown available for his personal legacy projects, like senior living at Baron’s South.

      I wish I could answer your question, but I don’t think there is one. Maybe Matt or John can cook one up? Maybe you should ask Gordon directly? He is supposed to answer to the people, after all.

    • Why? – Little(fat)Man complex. Same reason he shuts down comments on WestportNow.com when they aren’t going his way.

  15. Question for Rob Reeves?

    I believe that Rob Reeves has been consistently saying that if the money they arre seeking is not raised by mid-May, “there will be no Y in 2014.” To me, while that may be a factual statement in terms of a building, it doesn’t really answer too much about the fate of the Y afterwards. If the money isn’t raised by mid-May, does that mean there will no longer be a Westport Weston Family Y, and that the organization will return Maheckeno pledges and stop operating. Or will they cut down the scope of the new building once again and/or continue to fundraise so that they can build something, someplace in 2015 or later?

  16. The Dude Abides

    The interesting question for Reeves is what happens to the past contributions if the Y is not successful in finding further funding???

  17. Matthew Mandell

    Thanks for asking, Ideas.

    The answer is, when the Y wants to say yes we will work with those who want a Y downtown, things would move in that direction. The Y keeps saying it is Mahac or nothing. So we who have said for 7 years there is space downtown are made to seem foolish when in reality we have the a clear and reasonable vision.

    It amazes me that each time a swap or town land is mentioned everyone says, ooohhh Gordon will say no. 18 months from now Gordon will no longer be the man in charge and when a goodly number of RTM and P&Z members say yes, a Y downtown is workable and reasonable, things would move.

    And Barons South is still an option in my mind, the Y and senior housing could all fit. Imagine that, seniors in walking distance to the Y and their center. What annoys me most is that we were told by Gordon the Y would not fit on Barons, but his own Weston and Sampson study Engineer said it would. When the first plans for senior housing came out, they were bigger than the approved Y at Mahac. Now the appraisal of Barons says over 120,000 sqf of office could fit, again bigger than the Y. And now the Y is to be smaller and more humble.

    Still the imperial lot makes more sense, in my mind. Trade the lot for Mahackeno and the houses the Y bought that they will raze for a parking lot. The town leases back the camp to the Y for a buck for 3 months out of the year. The other 9, residents get to see and use the pond and the land. Open space is saved. The houses become workforce housing for town employees. And I believe many people opposed to the Y abandoning downtown, will toss cash into the kitty for a Y next to the Levitt and the Library.

    But as I have said, the Y should go build based on their approvals, they earned them. When and if they decide otherwise…….

    • Disappointed that we can't do better

      So Matt, if you can make this happen then do so. At the moment there is no other option than building on the Y’s owned property. For some many reasons the avenues to keep the Y downtown have never been real. What would you do if you were in their shoes? But you are as a member of the community and a part of the political process that possible make things happen. The First Selectman either can’t or won’t. Not sure why but our elected offices think it is better to do and say nothing than being part of a realistic solution. Like open spaces and responsible development the Y is an important element in making Westport special.

      • John McCarthy

        Should members of the Y board or Mr. Reeves say that they would be interested in discussing a land swap, I think you might see many, many Y suporters step up and put pressure on elected officials to make it happen. Until that happens (and I don’t think it will) no one, aside from a few die hards, will even mention it.

        Matthew, thanks for a good summary of the situation.

  18. But again, who on the town side can begin a convo? Other than Gordon? Or does the First Selectperson have to drive it? Guess I know what questions I will be asking in the next election for the job….

  19. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings

    • Don’t worry, if we have no Y there will be no lack of fat ladies (men and children) in our community.